Five ways to use your rhubarb

A whole bag of delicious rhubarb stalks

When I was a little kid, I thought even the idea of rhubarb was gross. Eating the stalk of something - cooked! Eeeeww!

Now I love rhubarb. I have a massive bed of rhubarb that came with the house - according to my elderly neighbor, it has been a big nice plant since the 1930s or earlier. When we re-did the backyard a few years ago and the rhubarb was in a spot that we wanted to use for wildflowers, we had the landscaping guys driving the small backhoe dig the ancient rhubarb out. I carefully divvied up the massive plant into chunks and replanted it in a new spot. It came back, that year, better than ever. I think after over 70 years in one spot, it benefited from some fresh soils.

Having so much rhubarb means that you find good things to do with rhubarb. I made 72 jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam as wedding favors when I got married. That was fun, and years later people are still telling me it was delicious.

One of the beauties of rhubarb is that if you harvest it by cleanly pulling the stalks out at the base when the stalks are still thin and red, then it grows a second harvest that is almost as tasty. Double the fun! If you cut the stalks, or wait until the stalks are thick and light green all over, then it is too late to create a second harvest. The rhubarb will still be good, just not quite as delicious.

Strawberries on the left, rhubarb on the right

Rhubarb comes in a few varieties. My plant is a greenish-to-white-to-red stalked variety that grows giant quasi-tropical looking leaves and thick stalks. My senile shut-in neighbor has the most unbelievable variety of rhubarb that she lets me harvest so that it doesn't go to waste. This variety has an all beet-red stalk and it bleeds red sap onto everything. The stalks are thinner and shorter, and the leaves are more arrow shaped. If you ever buy rhubarb, or get some starts from a friend, try to get her kind! It is better in both color and flavor.

And now, in the spirit of excessive rhubarb harvests, five ways to use your rhubarb:

Rhubarb Raspberry Pie
  • 2 cups chopped 1/2 inch rhubarb chunks
  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1/4 cup white flour
  • 1 cup sugar (brown or white, doesn't matter)
  • 1 tablespoon butter cut into 9 tiny chunks
  • pie crust, from scratch or pre-made
Preheat oven to 450. Mix ingredients and pour into the unbaked crust. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then 350 for 40 minutes more. Let cool a little bit, and serve with ice cream for best results.

Rhubarb Creamy Custard Pie

  • 2 eggs
  • about 2 cups of rhubarb, cut into half-inch chunks
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk -OR- 3/4 cup yogurt plus 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup white flour
  • pinch salt
  • healthy shake of cinnamon
  • unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients well with a whisk and pour into crust. Then add small amounts of rhubarb chunks, gently and evenly, until the uppermost rhubarb layer is about half submerged in the custard filling, and half is exposed. This is about two cups of rhubarb, but it really depends on the type of pie dish you are using.

Bake at 350 for roughly an hour. At 50 minutes, look at the pie. If the center has a matte finish (is not shiny) it is done. If not, check again every 10 minutes until that glossy look goes away. If it doesn't look done after 1 hour 15 minutes, take it out anyway to avoid scorching it.

Let cool completely if you can stand it - the texture it is much better cool then hot.

Rhubarb Muffins
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb chunks
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cups sugar, brown or white, doesn't matter
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 400. Melt butter, then add milk, making sure mixture is mildly warm but not hot. Mix all dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Beat eggs in a separate bowl until frothy. Pour in butter/milk mixture, then pour all of it into the large bowl with the dry ingredients.

Stir with a large spatula or wooden spoon until barely smooth. Less stirring is better - the mixture will be probably be slightly lumpy.

Add rhubarb chunks. Defrosting not required if frozen. Fold these in with a delicate hand to prevent the muffins from getting tough.

Muffins need 20-25 minutes at 400. If you bake it in a 8x8 buttered and floured loaf pan it will take 30 minutes and you won't need the little paper cups.

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam
  • 2 lbs strawberries, which is 42 large berries, or 4 cups mashed berries, or 6 cups of chopped berries
  • 2 lbs chopped rhubarb chunks, which is 8 cups worth
  • 6 cups of white sugar
Cover the rhubarb in a big bowl with 3 cups of sugar and let it sit out for 2 hours. Mix in the berries and the rest of the sugar. Heat in a big pot on low until the sugar completely dissolves and the mix gets watery looking. Turn the heat to high and boil the mixture until it is spattering and getting pretty darn hazardously hot and violent. Stir constantly. Then, pour into prepared jars (jar prep is very particular and you'll need to read the directions from a good canning resource). Boiling water process the jars for 10 to 15 minutes depending on altitude.

Yields roughly 80 ounces. Total time for this is 3 hours, actual jamming time is 45 minutes.

Rhubarb Storage

Wash stalks in hot soapy water, rinse with cold water, chop into 1/2 inch chunks, put ample amounts into freezer bags, and freeze. Then sometime in winter, bring it out and make something delicious and summery.


K said...

Rhubarb Slushy

8 c rhubarb in ½” chunks
2 quarts water
2 ½ c lemon juice
3 c sugar
1 pkg strawberry jello (small)
4 c vodka

Cook rhubarb in water until soft and mushy (20 min). Put mush in strainer. Save juice. Throw away pulp. Mix in lemon juice, sugar, jello & vodka. Mix & freeze in gallon container. To serve, scoop into glasses and add approx ¼ can pop. (sprite, ginger ale, etc.)

mahalie said...

I super <3 rhubarb!! Despite some arguing about it not being a cake, I bridezilla-ed my way into getting rhubarb crisp for my wedding. Thanks for the recipes!